Two sweet potato varieties developed by the LSU AgCenter recently were awarded U.S. patents – the first ones given to sweet potatoes.
"The patents protect our varieties on behalf of the interests of our growers," said Dr. Don LaBonte, an LSU AgCenter plant breeder who developed the new varieties. "Any funds derived from royalties would contribute to the enrichment of our program."
One of the patented varieties is Bienville, which was released by the LSU AgCenter in 2002 and is resistant to the southern root knot nematode.
The southern root knot nematode normally is found in lighter-textured, sandy soils in areas such as Morehouse and Bienville parishes, LaBonte said, adding that the pests have not been a problem in most sweet potato production areas of the state.
With its nematode resistance, the new variety allows growers to reduce costs by using less pesticide while maintaining product yield and quality, LaBonte said.
"Bienville fills a niche," LaBonte said. "But Beauregard will still be the standard."
Beauregard, developed by the LSU AgCenter and released in 1987, is considered by many to be the premier sweet potato variety in the United States.
The other variety that received a patent is known simply as 96-117.
"It’s a great processing sweet potato that makes good baby food puree and is attractive as a canned sweet potato," LaBonte said. "It’s sweet and flavorful."
The LSU AgCenter scientist said that while baby food processors are interested in the variety, it’s not as attractive for fresh market sales, which make up the bulk of Louisiana production.